I don't know about you, but my New Year's Eve was spent diving into a bunch of games. Even without the global pandemic, I've never been one to go out partying, but this past one was a great excuse for me to reign in the New Year doing what I love - gaming.
To mark the occasion, me and my fiancé discussed what we could play to celebrate it in style. We toyed with the idea of games such as Overcooked or Phogs!, but ultimately decided that playing some good old kart racers reminiscent to the days of playing Mario Kart would be an ideal solution. We also promised we would continue to love each other, no matter who won (it was me).
After much deliberations, we landed on three games: Team Sonic Racing, Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2: Grand Prix and Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled. Outside of Crash, none of these sounded particularly memorable or even good, but it was New Year and much like the same joy you get from watching a movie so bad it's good, we thought these would have the same effect. We were wrong.
What we found were some genuinely great games that also successfully accomplished not breaking up our relationship. It was a great surprise, especially with Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2 which had a lacklustre predecessor.
The most obvious choice for an initial dive was Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled. Having played the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy and Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time to death, this was always going to be a sure win. What elevates Nitro-Fueled amongst the rest of the selection is its sheer difficulty. It took a while to grow accustom to its unique drifting mechanic and brutal AI, but it controls wonderfully. Slipstreaming and sliding around corners feels great and the environments look beautiful. It also features a fantastic single player component, complete with bosses, races and Grand Prixs to jump into.
Moving onto Team Sonic Racing, the streak of enjoyable kart racers continued. Sonic is known for his speed and this game perfectly encapsulates that. While other kart racers use boosts as a means to provide some quick overtakes, Team Sonic Racing seems built around the idea of keeping up momentum and maintaining that speed. It's an exhilarating game with surprising depth, whilst also maintaining what made Mario Kart such a staple game in many households - the competitive nature.
One of the things that's special about it, however, is how it breaks the conventions and goes against being competitive. Labelled as a team racer, full co-op support is offered throughout the campaign, requiring both players to work together to win a variety of races and challenges. The challenges are particularly good, with events such as collecting as many rings as possible or drifting close to poles. Revisiting these to get the best score is an addictive feat that kept us up until the early hours of the morning.
Finally, Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2 does its best to erase the past of its predecessor and recreate the IP. The results are surprisingly successful, and while it does very little for the genre, it's a competent licensed kart racer. Outside of Mario Kart, the genre is very dry, so having more options is always welcome, especially for us looking for more family friendly titles or an excuse to show up our friends in hectic racers.
Many of Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2's inspirations come from genre conventions. Classic racing, battle modes and time trails all await, and the game is fairly straightforward. Where it absolutely shines though is through its progression system. With many characters locked out from the beginning, playing against them in races makes them available, constantly ensuring the carrot at the end of the stick is always dangled in front.
Not only that, but each vehicle has a pretty deep set of customisation options, from wheels that hold special advantages such as more grip, to engines which pack more horsepower. For a game called Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2, it's floored me how deep and addictive it actually manages to be with its upgrade system.
Each one of these games manages to introduce something new, whilst also bringing something different to the table. In a world where many will purchase a Nintendo Switch simply to dive into Mario Kart, it's surprised me how many excellent alternatives reside on the Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One.
There's a lot of variety and choice, depending on your preference, and honestly, I couldn't have found a better way to reign in the New Year than being reminded how fun the genre can actually be.
What are your favourite kart racers on Xbox? Give us your suggestions down in the comments.